Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We're Moving to the Country! Good Things Are Happening!

For almost three years now, my husband has been having to commute 64 miles (each way) to work. You see, we had a house in town near where my husband worked and then the kids ended up in a school we just loved... and then my husband's facility was shut down and he was transferred to a facility waaaaaay out in the country. We didn't want to uproot the kids again...

But the commute paired with the higher cost of living in town has just been too much. There have also been changes with our girl's school, and The Skink will not be able to go there in the coming school year. So we decided it was time to start looking for a place to live closer to my husband's work.

After weeks and weeks of searching and turning up very little as far as rentals (unless we wanted to live in a single-wide behind a factory... which we didn't) I totally lucked out and found a little-known website with an expired listing for a place that sounded way too good to be true, and I called. The voice on the other end of the line sounded surprised... but then said as luck would have it, the house was going to be available again around the end of July!

We scheduled a visit...

and fell...

in...

LOVE!


See that lovely, white farmhouse nestled under the mountain range?

We're going to be moving there around the end of July!




It's a 1905 farmhouse that has been completely updated and restored. It has been decorated in era style. It is part of a 300 acre horse farm. It's only 18(ish) miles from my husband's work. In short - it is the house of my dreams!


The little yard bordered by the white picket fence will be the yard where my children will play, and where Brandy the Wonder Dog will relax in the sun. The Skink will enjoy the cows that will come up to the livestock fence right by the little play yard. Mommy will love the fresh air her children will be playing in, devoid of the exhaust from the hundreds of cars and trucks we see, hear and smell each day in the city.



And under a large shade-tree in the back yard, a chicken coop awaits... and I can't tell you how excited I am about getting chickens and having fresh eggs to feed my family (not to mention some colorful new pets).


There's also a fish pond on the property. Broadway is eager to learn to fish in his own back yard!

(The back of the house)

Oh - and did I mention HORSES?? Having been a mega-horse-addict my entire life, this place looks like heaven to me! We won't be able to afford any of our own horses for a while, but the people who own the property have four horses... and four cows. YAY! 
 


We found out just last night that we will be allowed to rent this amazing place! Iraq and I jumped up and down, yelling, "We got the house! We got the house!" This says a lot, because I have never been the jump-scream type! I'm so amazingly excited and happy I can barely see straight! 

I'm less excited about having to pack up the house, but whatever, right?

And with that I will leave you with a few pictures from our visit to Mimi and Pop's house yesterday -




Got some great shots of this Osprey hunting when we were out on the boat!


Here, fishie, fishie, fishie!


Dinner!



May great things come your way, too!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Budding Photographer


 Yesterday morning, Iraq informed me she wanted to use my camera and she wanted me to "model" for her so she could take pictures. Truth be told, I instantly morph into the biggest goober in front of the camera, so I wasn't overly thrilled with the idea. To say that I am not photogenic is like calling the ocean "a little water." But when I uploaded the photos, I was rather pleasantly surprised to find she had taken some really good ones.


So today when Mimi came over and asked if we wanted to go to the Transportation Museum, I grabbed my back-up camera and put it in Iraq's Hello Kitty Purse. I told her she could take all the pictures she wanted of anything she wanted to take pictures of, any way she wanted to take them. (Grow, creativity! Grow!)

I may be a little biased, but I think she is showing some promise! These are a few of my absolute favorites:




Not too shabby for a kid who just turned 9! Needless to say, I will be doing everything in my power to cultivate this new found form of expression for Iraq.

While Iraq carried her purse to keep the camera in, The Skink carried her own purse... with a change of pants just in case.

The model trains were The Skink's favorite thing! Well, those and the real trains. She seems to really like trains.




(Iraq demonstrates how a train's pistons work.)





(The rocket is part of the museum's exhibits... but both structures look as if they could take off at any moment.)

 We all had a great time and The Skink stayed dry our whole visit and so far, all day today! (Gee - I hope I didn't just jinx our "dry spell."

Iraq... Iraq did GREAT! In the not-too-distant-past a museum visit like this would most certainly have set her off. The lights, the noise, the sights and the crowds are all very over-stimulating for kids in the autism spectrum. I think Iraq is finally getting to the point where she is learning to control her impulses, and better monitor herself in large, public places. I'm SO proud!

The Skink had a melt-down shortly after we left the museum - LOL. Hey... you can't win them all!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The One That Got Away

So we are potty training The Skink for the 3rd time. Yes - she was fully potty trained last October, and then ended up in the Pediatric ICU with a nasty case of pneumonia. As far as potty training, the timing couldn't have been worse... but is there ever a good time to end up in the PICU?

We got her potty trained again, but then guess what? She developed pneumonia AGAIN!

After her 2nd hospitalization, she lost interest in the whole potty thing. She would use the toilet if we took her there and planted her upon it, but she would also use her pull-up in between bathroom visits. *sigh*

Now that school is out for the year, I am making potty training a top priority! No if's, and's... and tons of butts!

The Skink has been doing fairly well... provided I remember to take her to the bathroom every hour on the hour. She has made some mistakes, and while we have always rewarded her for using the potty, we are now doling out a mild punishment when she makes a mistake... you know - trying to up the ante!

We had a great day today with no accidents at all... until this evening. You see, The Skink has not been initiating using the bathroom on her own. She usually waits until I ask her. It put a red flag up when she started trucking up the stairs in the middle of her favorite show. So I stopped her with the intention of "checking" the situation out.

As I pulled her drawers to the side to peek, something escaped...

...and then...

rolled...

down...

the...

stairs...


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggghhhhhh!

Yes - I had to chase poop as it rolled down the carpeted stairs in my home!

Ah - the things we do as parents!


As cute as she is, she got in some BIG trouble... after I was done gagging...

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Brief Weekend Update


 With summer settling in, we enjoyed a jaunt to Mimi and Pop's lake house this weekend to enjoy some swimming and boating. Iraq has morphed into her warm weather fish form and has mastered diving from the higher of the docks.


After some time in the water, Iraq came out to warm her pruned skin in the sun.

"Mom!" I heard her exclaim. "Mom, look! A dragonfly!"
A lovely, small dragonfly with gossamer wings had settled on her arm, perhaps to warm in the sun also... but strangely, no matter what movements Iraq made, it stayed with her. Sometimes it would fly up a bit, only to settle back down on her shoulder or her other arm.


"I wonder if Nana is sending you a message through the dragonfly,"
I said to her. As the last word skipped from my lips, I what Mimi would think. Mimi laughed a little at my words, but Iraq's eyes lit up at the idea of her paternal grandmother sending her a love note from heaven.

"Really?" Iraq asked me. "So you really think Nana is saying 'Hi' to me?"
I could feel Mimi eying me, but with a certain resolve in my heart, I said, "Yes I do. I think Nana wants you to know how much she loves you, even though she died while you were still growing inside of me."

At that moment, the dragonfly's wings started to beat, lifting it into the air. It flew from where Iraq sat on the lower dock... up, up and straight over to me, alighting on my right shoulder as if to whisper its appreciation to me.

Beaming from ear to ear, Iraq bounced up the steps and ran over to me. She stuck her finger out, and the dragonfly climbed onto it without hesitation. She took it back down to the other dock. Mimi quietly asked if we got many visits from Nana. I assured her that though they took on different forms, we certainly did!


Nana's dragonfly enjoyed the beautiful summer day with Iraq for quite some time, allowing Iraq to reposition it to a shoulder, knee or hand during lunch time.


When Iraq had eaten she eventually decided she was ready to swim again and gently set the dragonfly on one of the boats hanging in the boathouse, where it stayed for a little while before flying off.


 
The rest of the day was spent enjoying the water, blowing bubbles and riding the boat, but perhaps Nana's firefly was the highlight of the whole, wonderful day!

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Horses and Ponies Everywhere! Our Horse Themed Birthday Party!

Iraq is turning 9 and she has never had a birthday party - at least not one where we invited other children. Because she get so overstimulated so quickly, we never thought it would be a good idea... at least not until this year.

This year we got brave! Mid-year resolution-type brave! (I have been writing monthly articles for SpecialNeeds.com)

So in keeping with the "brave" thing, we decided to do a combined party for both Iraq and The Skink - The Skink's August birthday makes it hard to invite kids from school, so she's never had a "real" birthday party either. When I asked them what kind of party they wanted, Iraq immediately answered "A HORSE party!" The Skink agreed happily.

Since funds have been tight, I needed to figure out how to do a horse-themed birthday party on a dime (or maybe 2 dimes...)


So, first the invitations:






I found some art I liked on the internet, and then took that idea and reworked it into something that would do well for the party. I threw it into a Word document and found a font Iraq liked. I already had some card stock in a multitude of colors, and voila! The brown ribbon for the bow cost less than $1, and really added a nice touch.

I roamed about on Pinterest and asked friends on a horse-related internet forum and gathered some nifty ideas, one of which was to give each child a hobby horse which could then be used for a variety of horse-themed games during the party. Well... I don't know if you have priced hobby horses lately, but if it had come down to buying them, it would have been out of the question... by a few hundred dollars. Solution? I made my own out of remnants that I already had in the basement! I stuffed them with the stuffing from old pillows that we no longer needed.


I needed awards to hand out to the kids, so I found a tutorial on how to make rosettes HERE. Instead of using buttons, I found that poker chips (which we already had) fit perfectly! I got the ribbon out of the bargain bin at WalMart :-) Didn't they turn out cute?





To carry out the theme, I printed out labels using the same art that I did for the invites and stuck them on water bottles from the Dollar Store with clear packing tape. A borrowed container from Mimi, a little ice and we made "Fancy Water!"


 Horses also like carrots (but unfortunately not all kids do) so I made "carrots" using saran wrap folded into a cone, filled with Goldfish Crackers and tied off with a little green ribbon. I also found some little trophies in the party section of WalMart and they were not expensive at all!


Since the colors were pink and brown, all I had to do to frost the cake and cup cakes I made was add a few drops of red food color to regular 'ol white butter-cream frosting and mix it up with a blender. Brown? Chocolate! Duh :)



Since I'm better at sewing and drawing than I am at frosting or baking, I embellished the cupcakes with the same artwork printed on card stock, cut into small circles and hot glued onto toothpicks. They were so easy it's almost silly!

I set up all the horses, carrots, ribbons, food and fancy water just before the guests arrived and it looked like this:


I just happened to find blue napkins with white polka-dots in the party section... and they matched the blue ribbons I made. How cool was that? Don't mind the awkward frosting on the cake. Frosting cakes isn't my thing - LOL. At least the colors were cute!

Here are some other Horse Themed Party Ideas that I collected while I was putting this party together:

Games: (Be sure to have awards to hand out :)

Horseshoes (you can find cheap plastic sets online for less than $5)
Stomp the Fly (See description below)
Dangling Carrot - Use twine to tie around carrots and then dangle from a tree branch, swing set or hand-held stick. Kid who eats the whole carrot first wins.
Bobbing for Apples - Instructions Here

Horse Races - If you are giving out hobby horses, have the children race them. If not, just have the children pretend to be horses.
Hunter Over Fences -   Set up kid-safe obstacles for the kids to jump over (think Olympic Show Jumping). Of course any variation will do, so get creative with your obstacles.
Sugar Cube Races - Same idea as egg-and-spoon races, but with sugar cubes instead of eggs.
Lasso the Horse - Set up a child's rocking horse behind a line in the grass or on the floor. Have children stand behind the line and attempt to toss a hula-hoop or large embroidery hoop over the horse's head.
Bingo Horse Races - (Use hobby horses if you have them) Mark off a grid about 6 squares wide and 8 squares long - use tape indoors or chalk outdoors to make your grid. Number the squares 1-6. Mark a starting line at one end and a finish line at the others. Have 6 kids line up on the start line - then roll 2 dice. The number on the first die dictates which kid can move (by the row they are standing in). The second die dictates how many spaces forward the kiddo can move... so a 3 and a 1 would mean the child in row 3 can move 1 space. First kid to the finish wins.
Saddle the Horse - This game is basically like pin the tail on the donkey, but uses a printed out picture of a horse and cut-out printouts of saddles. Kiddo who places her/his saddle closest to the horse's back wins.

Make your own horse Pinata tutorial (they show a dog - just modify it and make a horse!
Water Bottle Label tutorial
Hobby Horse tutorial (For goodness sake - the reins come off the bit at the horse's mouth - not behind the ears!)
Carrot Napkin Holders



And here are a few pictures from our wildly successful day that I spent less than $50 on (total!).


We did this game called "Stomp the Fly!" You tie a black balloon to each kid's ankle and have them try to pop each others balloons. The last kid with a full balloon on their ankle wins... and I have to say the entertainment value of this game for the adults who are present is priceless!

(Her balloon got stomped... poor thing!)






Did the Birthday Girl have fun? She did amazingly well today - and perhaps this expression says it all!





(Me and my shadow... I mean camera...)




After the presents we did the pinata... but unfortunately the thing had apparently been fashioned from cement or something because after each kid took 10 whacks...






...we let the dads try...


(I love this picture - I think it looks like he just took a bite out of it!)
And FINALLY...




Yes - a fun time was had by all! No meltdowns, no regrets. Just one great (and inexpensive) party!

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